R-9 board considers 2020-21 budget

By Sheryl Stanley
There was good news and bad news for the Harrisonville R-9 Board of Education at its regular April 21, as the group considered mostly mundane agenda before turning their attention to items having a direct bearing on the 2020-2021 fiscal budget.

The good news for the board came when renewing contracts for ABBCO
Service Corporation, St. Louis, which provides custodial and maintenance management for the schools and OPAA! Food Service, Chesterfield, the district’s food service provider. Both companies agreed to continue next year at the same rate as their current contracts.

Harrisonville schools moved to private contractors in these two areas last year to reduce personnel expenses.

The bad news concerned the employee health insurance program for the coming year. The new contract with carrier Blue Cross Blue Shield, approved during the meeting, will result in an increase for the district of $68,458, or 4 percent for this year’s contribution, but that was a far cry
from BCBS’ original bid with an increase of 16 percent or more than $250,000.

In a written statement concerning budg et issues which was released to parents, stakeholders and the public April 22, R-9 Superintendent Mensching explained the process.

“Our yearly renewal was initially quoted as a 16 percent increase or an ad-
ditional $272,052 expense to the district,” he said. “Through our broker, we sent the health insurance out to bid to additional carriers.

“Only one other carrier bid and the negative impact to the prescription plan was considered too severe. Our next option was to alter the plan to make it more affordable to the district. The plan changes resulted in a 4 percent increase, or $68,458 increase overall, for the district.”

Currently, Mensching and his staff continue prep work on next year’s budget, adjusting staffing among the schools, examining class sizes in the lower elementary grades and re-evaluating participation in athletics and extracurricular offerings.

The budget must be completed by July 1, but that deadline does not take into account the fact that in March, the April 7 municipal election was postponed to June 2.

The district has two issues on the ballot, one seeking a 50-cent operating levy increase for salary increases, and the other a $22.7 million, no-tax-increase bond issue to improve safety and security, replace roofs, HVAC units and boilers, improve technology and playgrounds and complete other repairs and improvements already identified in the facility needs assessment.

The board agreed to hold an organizational meeting at 7 p.m. June 16, to swear in new members for the coming term and reorganize as required.

Compounding the problems faced by school leaders throughout the state, Gov. Mike Parson announced additional state withholdings last week, including more than $23 million which will have a direct
impact on schools.

“These withholdings include cuts to transportation and the state foundation formula, resulting in reduced state revenues for the 2019-20 school year which were not anticipated when the budget was passed last June,” Mensching said.